“We are all ready and eager for life to return to normal. But 2020 is still nowhere near normal,” says Rachel Lynn, M.D. “So, this holiday season is an opportunity to create new traditions, rather than returning to ways of old.”
Although holiday festivities approach, the risk of COVID-19 infection is not going anywhere. To help you and your loved ones stay safe while remaining thankful, here are 5 key tips for celebrating Thanksgiving during 2020:
- Find new activities to (temporarily) replace long-standing traditions
Turkey trots, fun runs, and Thanksgiving parades are popular seasonal activities. Not participating in traditions like these can dampen the thankful spirit that comes with this time of year, but a great way to combat feeling as though you’re missing out is to find new ways to spend time with friends and family.
Instead of going out to have fun, try staying in and virtually visiting with loved ones. There are many games you can play remotely with others to break up the monotony of FaceTime calls, like Scrabble, Mario Kart Tour, Uno, and Monopoly. If games aren’t your forte, you can also watch movies simultaneously with others through Netflix Party.
- Opt for intimate online gatherings over in-person shindigs
Infectious disease and infection control expert Roy Chemaly, M.D. said, “The best way to stay safe this Thanksgiving is to have a small family gathering with only the people in your immediate household. Everything — airports, airplanes, gas stations and hotels — tends to be more crowded at this time of year, but you can minimize your exposure to crowds by celebrating at home.”
Not celebrating with a large group may feel isolating, but there are many innovative ways to stay physically distanced without feeling socially distant. To mimic the feel of cooking and eating with others, try hosting a virtual dinner party. Whether it’s a friendsgiving or a remote family gathering, a virtual dinner party can involve good food and company.
To make the event feel special, consider taking turns screen-sharing PowerPoint presentations. It may sound odd to suggest creating a slideshow for fun instead of work, but as this article shows, PowerPoint can be a creative and entertaining medium for sharing with friends and family. Whether the PowerPoint is full of funny gifs, bulleted lists updating others on your life, or video montages from what you’ve binge-watched this year, slideshows can turn Zoom conferences into something great.
- Not your family’s best cook? Check out food delivery options
“Sharing a meal is a powerful bonding experience that many people crave,” said Catherine Powers-James, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in the Integrative Medicine Center. Not only do we want time with others, but we also crave the obvious benefit of gathering for Thanksgiving: good food.
If missing your relative’s signature Thanksgiving sides or desserts is getting you down but you’re not confident in your own skills in the kitchen, you have other options besides settling for the same old meal you’ve made on repeat during quarantine. Make your Thanksgiving Day special by giving back and supporting local restaurants.
By ordering from local businesses, you can feed you or your household without spending hours in the kitchen while contributing to keeping restaurants afloat during these turbulent times. Boston residents can check out this article to browse a list of restaurants offering Thanksgiving deals for two people or families, which are available for pickup or delivery.
- Focus on being thankful for what is possible instead of resentful for what isn’t
Giving thanks is — quite literally — the point of this upcoming holiday. Though it may seem obvious, making an effort to only speak positively and show gratitude is a simple yet effective way to avoid having a bad holiday.
Instead of “doom scrolling” through social media, consider taking a break from tweets and posts for several hours. If others comment on your choices to protect your health and the health of those you love, here’s a piece of advice: you don’t have to attend every debate you’re invited to. Instead of engaging in what could be a fruitless and stressful undertaking, try only engaging in conversations or encouraging topics that lift you and others up.
This holiday season, protecting your well-being can involve more than following health and safety protocols. For more tips to keep mental health in check, view this CDC article.
- Continue wearing masks and stay 6 feet apart
If possible, test for COVID before traveling. “A week or a long weekend is not enough time to self-quarantine effectively,” says Roy Chemaly, M.D. “So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Although there is no mandate for wearing face coverings after being picked up from the airport, consider leaving the mask on and keeping physical contact to an absolute minimum until you are certain you’ve only brought home your suitcases and luggage.
Masks are common sense and for the common good. With a negative test result, you can more confidently enjoy time with your close family.
It can be tempting to throw caution to the wind when returning home from a long stint away, but our goal is to spread holiday joy, not germs.
Although it can be tempting to cut corners and spend this Thanksgiving with friends and family, it’s more important to think of next Thanksgiving. Taking steps to stay safe and keep others healthy means you protect your odds of enjoying future holidays with all of your loved ones.
Now more than ever, the holidays are a time to — metaphorically — come together. For more safety tips, view MDAnderson.org’s Thanksgiving article here.